The NHL has made Vinny Lecavalier a poster child for the league, and deservedly so. Beyond his enormous skills, the Lightning captain last season was given the King Clancy Trophy for charitable work, and during the summer he was among several players invited to the league's New York office for a marketing tour.
Add that Lecavalier is from the Montreal suburb of Ile Bizard and wears No. 4 in part to honor former Canadiens great Jean Beliveau, and it's easy to understand why the league chose him as Tampa Bay's representative to the Jan. 25 All-Star Game at Montreal's Bell Centre, a celebration of the franchise's 100th anniversary.
Still, even Lecavalier must realize that if stats and season impact were the only criteria, goalie Mike Smith and wing Marty St. Louis probably would be more deserving.
Lecavalier isn't off the map. His numbers are down, but he is tied for the team lead with 16 goals and has a team-high five winners. Smith, though, is the team's half-season MVP, and St. Louis is so much the offensive catalyst, coach Rick Tocchet double-shifts him to help kick-start struggling lines.
Smith, who has a 9-15-9 record on a struggling team, had no shot at being chosen. So the only other option was St. Louis, who has 16 goals and team highs of 40 points and 24 assists and is plus-8 on a squad outscored 99-127.
His 21:14 average ice time leads Lightning forwards, and he has emerged as one of the locker room's strongest voices. He also is from a Montreal suburb, Laval. In other words, he has a case. Lecavalier, though, is a worldwide face.
The NHL has a terrible job filling out the All-Star teams, whose starters are determined by fan voting. Senior executive VP and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell picks the reserves. Although there apparently is no written rule, the NHL wants every team represented. There also doesn't seem to be hard and fast guidelines as to how picks are made, other than, as the league states, consultations with general managers.
"Listen, it's tough," Tocchet said, speaking generally. "I wouldn't want to be the guy who picks the All-Star team. You can name four or five guys who didn't make the team you can shake your head on. But it's part of the process."
A process that this time seemed to reward a little more style over substance.